Attorney Wellness, 1021 MEBJ, Pg. 156

PositionVol. 36 3 Pg. 156


No. Vol. 36 No. 3 Pg. 156

Maine Bar Journal

October, 2021


Another Lawyer's Story

He said to me, quoting the Grateful Dead, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” I remarked that I couldn’t disagree. His journey began years ago.

Carl (not his real name) was in his mid-40s and had practiced law for almost 20 years. He was a competent litigator, well-liked by his peers. He appeared to be an easy going, upbeat individual. He was noteworthy for being remarkably empathetic. Clients and friends thought him a very understanding person to whom it was easy to relate. He looked to have a robust practice. From the outside it seemed that Carl was doing just fine. On the inside, however, it was a very different story.

Carl grew up in a community where “looking good” was a high priority. Problems or difficulties were to remain strictly within the family. Reputation trumped just about everything. Te public image of Carl’s family belied a difficult home situation. His mother suffered from significant emotional problems, which resulted in a chaotic home life with little emotional equilibrium. Carl entered adulthood “looking good” but also carrying some significant psychological baggage.

As he moved through this 20s and 30s, Carl frequently encountered periods where he was unable to enjoy life. He often berated himself for being unhappy because objectively at least, he had no reason to be down. It sometimes felt as if a cloud was hanging over him. During these periods the simplest tasks often seemed to be overwhelmingly difficult. He couldn’t get out of his own way. These episodes would last for days or sometimes weeks. Over time they became more frequent and began to interfere with his law practice. Phone messages went unreturned, status reports were late, client billing was neglected. No clients had been harmed, but his practice was headed in that direction. He gradually gained a reputation as a lawyer who always asked for extensions of time to designate experts, respond to discovery or file briefs. Since he was well-liked, opposing counsel rarely objected. Most thought that Carl’s busy practice was the reason he needed additional time. No one was aware that he was struggling just to keep his head above water. They didn’t know that he was suffering from major clinical depression. For quite a while Carl was unaware as well.

Whenever he encountered a...

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